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‘Genuine and likeable’ McLoughlin fondly remembered in Killarney

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VISIT: Alan McLoughlin is presented with a Killarney Athletic jersey by club stalwart Mikey O'Sullivan during the inaugural FAI Summer Camp at the Áras Phádraig in 1992.

In August of 1992, Ireland international Alan McLoughlin spent a week in Killarney as part of the first ever FAI Summer Soccer Camps, which were organised in this town in conjunction with Killarney Athletic. Over the course of his stay, the Portsmouth player coached a group of local youngsters at the old Áras Phádraig pitch on Lewis Road.

Long-serving Athletic chairman Mikey O’Sullivan liaised with McLoughlin throughout his visit and so impressed was he with the Mancunian’s work on the training pitch, he suggested that a career in coaching lay ahead for the then-25-year-old. McLoughlin, who was a bit-part player for Jack Charlton’s side at the time, quipped that he still had something to offer as a player.

Little did he or O’Sullivan know just how significant a contribution to Irish football he would later make.

Fast forward to November of 1993 and a tense and fractious night at Windsor Park in Belfast. Ireland needed a result against Northern Ireland to secure a place at the 1994 World Cup but with time ebbing away, they trailed by a goal to nil. Charlton turned to McLoughlin to come in and make an impact, and what an impact he made. The attacking midfielder controlled Denis Irwin’s half-cleared free kick on his chest before arrowing a beautiful half-volley to the corner of the net, and Ireland were heading for America.

It wasn’t McLoughlin’s only contribution to the Irish team – he was selected for two World Cups and was Ireland’s Player of the Year in 1996 – but it was undoubtedly his most important.

He continued playing for his country until 1999 and he would later fulfil O’Sullivan’s prophecy by taking on a coaching role with Portsmouth.

ILLNESS

McLoughlin was diagnosed with a kidney tumour in 2012. Although he had a successful operation at the time, he confirmed in March of this year that he was battling cancer again. He passed away on Tuesday at the age of 54.

Tributes have poured in for the Irish soccer hero these past few days and speaking to the Killarney Advertiser, Mikey O’Sullivan said he has fond memories of McLoughlin’s time in Killarney.

“I recall meeting Alan at the time as he was an assigned coach to our coaching clinic and he was a very likeable and genuine fellow. He and his wife Debbie, along with their few-months-old baby Abby, stayed in the Gleneagle Hotel for the week.

 

[caption id="attachment_37480" align="aligncenter" width="670"] Alan McLoughlin is presented with a Killarney Athletic jersey by club stalwart Mikey O'Sullivan during the inaugural FAI Summer Camp at the Áras Phádraig in 1992.[/caption]

 

“When speaking with Alan he was very proud to be part of the Irish international team and valued his family ties with this country very much. (McLoughlin’s mother hailed from Knockaderry in County Limerick and his father came from Largan, between Headford and Tuam on the Galway/Mayo border.)

“I am sure that I can express condolences to Debbie, Abby and Megan and the wider family at this sad time of their great loss from all of us in Killarney who met Alan through the love and support of soccer.”

McLoughlin will always have a special place in the hearts of Irish soccer fans thanks to that wondergoal in Belfast in ’93 and in his autobiography he acknowledged how significant a moment that was for him personally.

“I occasionally get out the video of that goal against Northern Ireland, watch my volley and watch the elation on my face. I think back to touching down at Dublin airport as the hero of the hour. I think back over my life and career. Serious illness brings with it the inevitable thought of standing at the pearly gates, and accounting for your life. I think back on the characters I've come across, the family members that I have loved and cherished, the joy and pain, I think back to Big Jack telling the cameras that, with the goal, I had justified my existence.

“And I reflect with a wry smile that, yes, when all is said and done, I had done exactly that.”

 

Main pic: The late Alan McLoughlin, who played 42 times for Ireland between 1990 and 1999. Pic: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile.

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It’s tip-off time for new-look Lakers

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National League Division 1

Scotts Lakers v Limerick Sport Eagles

Saturday at 7.30pm

Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre

The 2022/23 National League tips off on Saturday evening and the Scotts Lakers will be hoping to get their campaign off to a flyer at home to the Limerick Sport Eagles.

The Lakers narrowly missed out on a playoff berth last time around, mainly due to a disappointing start to the season. Playing their first four home games at alternative venues probably didn’t help; the Killarney Sports & Leisure Centre was being used as a makeshift vaccination centre at the time. That’s all ancient history now, thankfully.

With that in mind, a fast start will be a priority, beginning with the visit of the Eagles this weekend.

ROSTER

It’s always difficult to tell until at least a few matches have been played but head coach Jarlath Lee appears to have made some good moves during the off-season.

Godwin Boahen will be missed but Dutch point guard Esebio Strijdhaftig has come in as a replacement, and Ukrainian big man Dmytro Berozkin – all 6’10” of him – has also come on board.

American shooter Eric Cooper Jr’s time here was brief; he has moved on already with Indiana native Jack Ferguson filling his shoes. Just like former laker Seán O’Brien, Ferguson played college ball with Colgate University.

The Lakers have retained the services of Portuguese player Rui Saravia, a skilled passer who has settled in nicely.

Just as essential as the imports are the local players who make up the majority of the squad. Mark O’Shea and Paul Clarke are important figures in the squad, although their involvement is likely to be curtailed by football commitments for the time being.

Youngsters Jamie O’Sullivan, Senan O’Leary and David Gleeson could well see more game time this season after exhibiting great promise in 2021/22, and other St Paul’s graduates like Mark Sheahan, Jack O’Sullivan and Eoin Carroll will also play their part.

A player to keep a close eye on is Ronan Collins, a Gneeveguilla native who has represented Ireland with distinction at underage level.

The club will be hoping for a healthy turnout for their season opener.

Meanwhile, the Lakers’ crosstown rivals the Killarney Cougars have an away fixture to get things started. They take on SETU Carlow (formerly IT Carlow) at the Barrow Centre on Saturday evening.

WOMEN’S LEAGUE

The St Paul’s women’s team (who are back in the National League for the first time since 2012) are also ready for their opening match of the new campaign. They travel to Kilkenny to take on the Marble City Hawks on Saturday at 7pm.

The team is managed by well-known local coach James Fleming and will be backboned by Killarney players like Lynn Jones, Rheanne O’Shea, Cassandra Buckley and current Ireland U16 international Leah McMahon.

Canadian Sophia Paska (formerly of the Limerick Celtics) and American Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda (ex-Limerick Sport Huskies) will add some recent league experience to the squad.

Paul’s first home game of the 2022/23 season will come next Saturday, October 8 against the Celtics.

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Adam Moynihan: Culture of lawlessness is partly to blame for GAA violence

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Why are so many GAA matches turning violent and/or abusive to the point that they need to be abandoned?

In Kerry, two underage fixtures had to be called off this past month alone. One, an U11 hurling game in which scores weren’t even being kept, was ended prematurely by the referee who was apparently on the receiving end of persistent verbal abuse. Another, an U15 football match in Kilcummin, came to a halt after a Cordal mentor was allegedly physically assaulted. The man in question ended up in hospital.

The spate of violence has not been confined to Kerry. Far from it. Matches in Roscommon, Wexford and Mayo have also been blighted by attacks on match officials. And some referees are rightly saying, “no more”. After a ref was attacked at a minor game in Roscommon last month, referees across the county briefly went on strike in solidarity.

If GAA officials are not concerned about the same thing happening again, quite conceivably on a wider scale, they should be.

Where does it all come from, this abuse and this violence? Why is it so prevalent in Gaelic games?

While it’s true that there is invariably a negative public reaction to instances of violence at GAA matches, I actually think a significant percentage of stakeholders are too accepting of it as a phenomenon.

Take the Armagh-Galway incident from this past summer for example. When Armagh sub Tiernan Kelly waded into a melee and gouged Damien Comer’s eye, the video footage enraged the vast majority of people who saw it. Kelly was widely condemned for his actions, even by outsiders like media personalities and politicians.

But then came the counter-reaction from within GAA circles. They said that Kelly was being vilified. The response was over the top. He was a good guy who simply made a mistake. These things happen.

As a GAA lover I personally can’t stand it when people who don’t follow the sport weigh in on these issues (politicians especially) but, for me, most of what was initially said about Kelly was justified. Sticking your finger in someone’s eye doesn’t just happen. It’s a despicable act of violence. In the end he got a six-month ban, meaning he misses a grand total of zero intercounty matches. Does that punishment fit the crime?

Surely a stronger message needs to be issued that people who engage in violence are not welcome.

When it comes to anyone entering the field of play – be they a supporter, mentor or some kind of hanger-on – and physically assaulting a referee or a player or another coach, they must be dealt with in the strongest possible terms. I’m talking about lifetime bans.

As a further deterrent, clubs and teams who fail to control their members should be punished appropriately. This should include expulsion from competitions for repeat offenders. As long as violent individuals are getting away lightly thanks to disciplinary action that doesn’t go far enough, these things will continue to happen.

GAA rule-makers have to get serious about the scourge of violence before referees pull the plug. Or before someone gets severely injured. Or worse.

I can’t help but feel as though our broadly lax attitude towards the laws of the game is a significant factor also. I’ve written this sentence on numerous occasions before so you may be sick of reading it, but I’ll stop saying it when it stops being true: so many rules in the GAA are so poorly enforced, you wonder why they bothered writing them down in the first place.

You have to hop or solo after four steps, but you can get away with seven or eight. You have to wear a gumshield, but you can tuck it into your sock. You have to be 13 metres away from the referee when he throws in a hop ball, but two metres will do. Managers have to stay off the pitch, but five yards over the line is grand. You have to make a clear striking motion when executing a handpass in hurling, but you can throw it too.

Whatever suits.

There is a culture of lawlessness in Gaelic football and hurling that I don’t think exists in any other sports of their kind.

It makes the games impossible to referee “properly” because every participant and observer has their own interpretation of what’s allowed. The referee can’t be right in everyone’s eyes if the rules have multiple nebulous interpretations.

So, with that in mind, should we be surprised that referees are getting it from all angles? Is it any wonder that people who should never even dream of entering the field of play feel as though they can?

Handing down proper punishments for violent attacks is really important but we must also have far more respect for the rules on a wider scale. No more half measures.

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